Transforming Neighbourhoods: Discipling Communities.

Last Saturday we had the 11th annual South Reading Churches Fun Day with an estimated 5000 community members in attendance. It was just fabulous watching people move from being spectators to participators and having a whale of a time! It had me reminiscing about the different communities where I have helped facilitate community building festivals; across South Africa, northern Ghana, Kaduna in Nigeria, Trench Town in Jamaica… to mention just a few.

In each of these communities there are local people plugging away using various programs as ways to mentor others. On Sunday night I caught up with Derrick Trout who leads the work in South Africa, he had had a roller coaster week. When you are working to see your community transformed there are times of incredible breakthrough and encouragement, and there are times when you wonder if it’s all worthwhile. Communities are transformed when paradigms shift and people make different life choices, lives are changed and the very systems and structures of the community are renewed: that’s no small feat!

Jesus called us to make disciples of all people teaching them to live the way he taught; this is what he was talking about – it’s not just about working to see individuals find freedom, it’s about seeing whole communities and societies transformed.

Jesus came declaring that there was a new king on the throne whose rule was now paramount; God himself was now king. This meant that there was a different way of doing life that was all about harmonising with the will of the new King. The implications were for individuals, families, politicians, leaders, and society as a whole. To prove the reality of this new Kingdom, Jesus embarked in a systematic demolition of the kingdom of darkness. Everywhere he went God’s rule overturned and reversed every form of death, darkness and destruction. And once his part of the mission was completed, he sent us out to continue the same.

In fellowship with local believers, every Fusion team in each community they operate asks ‘What does the will of the King look like here? What works of death and darkness are to be overturned here?’. The answers to these questions are then born out in a long haul journey punctuated by events and programs, seasons of fruitfulness and of dearth. There are moments of celebration and moments when, like Jesus, we cry out in exasperation ‘How long must I bear with you?!’. But all the while individuals, families, politicians and leaders, and even society as a whole are being challenged and mentored in a different way of doing life. This is community transformation!

A Fusion Community building Festival is just one small microcosm of this transformation taking place…

So let us not grow weary in doing good, but keep going, because in due time we will see the harvest! This Saturday morning Fusion Y&C UK is running a training event to equip leaders and laity alike for the long haul journey of discipling communities and seeing our neighbourhoods transformed. Each of the 5 workshops is about declaring the rule of the King and demolishing the kingdom of darkness in a particular sphere. Why not join us if you can? Click here to find out more.

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a star in a black night

This gallery contains 7 photos.

A week ago, after being a way for fortnight I read through the papers becoming increasingly weighed down by the escalation of wars and crimes against humanity that has been in motion recently. I got to the sports section and saw with some relief that there was an article on the Commonwealth Games. My heart […]

haunted by peace

‘If only you knew the things that would make for your peace’. These words have been haunting me over the last few days. They are what Jesus said as he wept over Jerusalem when approaching the city for the last time. He longed for his people to be at peace with themselves, their calling, with God and with life. The Hebrew notion of peace fascinates me. It is a blessing given from the start of the Judeo-Christian narrative throughout history to today, but the meaning has been somewhat lost in translation. Shalom (the Hebrew word for Peace) is a word picture of God’s dream and purpose to restore humanity and all creation to his original design … and more. It means everything coming into its rightful place the way God intended. It is about the Kingdom of God, that reality where God’s will is being done, its about him making all things new. Its about wholeness and life and healing and reconciliation, Joy and restoration, redemption, grace and right relationship with others, oneself, God and the created world. Shalom.

‘If only you knew the things that would make for your peace.’ There are paradigms that I have that take me away from God’s purposes, his good and perfect will that effects not only myself but those around me; and there is a paradigm and perspective that enables me to see things through his eyes and understand the world in his light and make choices from there. Both John the Baptist and Jesus called the people to have a ‘metanoia’, to change their paradigm and perspective so that they could recognise the Kingdom of God, in other words God doing stuff his way in their midst. They had been waiting for the unfolding of Gods plans for centuries, the danger was that now that things were moving, they would miss it because they were looking with blinded eyes… they needed to have a metanoia, a changed perspective. (the word in Christianese is ‘repent’).

However, Jesus said those words to a city, a community, a society; not to individuals. I look at Britain today and I hear his words – if only our nation knew the things….. but wait, we do! We have been there before. We do know the things that would make for our Peace, its just that we have forgotten and lost our way. Centuries before Jesus spoke these words, God sent a message to his people in exile instructing them to ‘seek for, pray for and work for the peace of the place where I have sent you’. I believe those orders are still standing orders for us today. Our job is to help our nation re-discover its God given purpose to live and chose and lead in the world according to his design; that is with justice, kindness, mercy, honour and compassion; caring for and defending the poor, the orphans, the widows and the refugees. We need to turn the hearts of this generation to our past redemptive heritage, inspire them to stand with courage for the things that goodness demands of us today… for the sake of the generations to come, so that they in turn can live those things that would make for their Peace.

Come on, its time to change the world.

God’s not schizoid….

Its nice to be back to blogging. In the break  I have moved house, relocated office, been to Rome, viewed my Mother’s prospective new home and attended 4 different churches. From all that and much more I have plenty to reflect on and share with you!

One of the things I appreciate about the movement that I am part of is that there are very few decisions of importance and wide reaching consequence that anyone gets to make on their own. Over the last few weeks I have been involved in a number of important decision making processes, many of which will have consequences that will be felt right across the international movement.

As a Christian mission movement we believe that God has an opinion and a say in our life and the decisions we make. In a discussion recently I found myself saying ‘God’s not schizophrenic’. My statement was a reflection on the current complexity we were facing brought about by the fact that not only do we believe that God has a say in what we do, but we do NOT believe that any one person or group has the monopoly on revelation from God as to what he wants; but rather that ‘together we have the mind of Christ’. So what happens when different ones seem to have opposing notions (equally felt to be of God by the respective proponents) of the right way forward?

In this situation, in our movement’s context, we would have one of three main options; the first and easiest is to assume that one person or group does have the monopoly on ‘God’s truth’ after all – they’re the more spiritual ones or they prayed longest and hardest, or they know the bible really well or … whatever. The second is that God is in fact ‘schizophrenic’, and in one setting he said one thing and in another he said something quite different; so really it doesn’t matter which we choose, opt for the one we like best, its all just a game of roulette anyway. The third is that God has indeed spoken to each of his children who have asked and listened, what each have shared is a complex mixture of personal agenda and divine inspiration, but the joyous task is for us together in grace and mercy, with Holy Spirit’s continued help, to discern the whole of what God is saying as we piece together the different parts… separating out the stuff that we threw into the mix of ourselves.

If I am honest, I reckon we go for the first two options more often than we would like to admit! However when we do go for the third, I reckon heaven celebrates and the powers of darkness are stricken with terror. Because I believe that the third option is an expression of Trinitarian unity in action, it is humble disciples with their master, seeking first his Kingdom. The third option is extremely ‘unnatural’, it requires all those concerned to yield to the others, it asks for an unusual level of humility, it demands an acknowledgment that God is as much at work in others as he is in you (and vise versa), it relies on each party articulating what they see and demands that the group take the necessary time and action to create the environment where all these things are in fact possible.

Its easy to see that there are no end of factors that make that third option so difficult to achieve. For me with my back ground in Soul Survivor and Vineyard, one of the most important things I learnt was to say ‘I could be wrong, or only partly right, but I think God might be saying ….’. this not only acknowledges my fallibility as a human being, but it also welcomes fellowship in discerning God’s voice. (it was a bit of a breath of fresh air from the more classic Pentecostal style I had grown up with!) The down side is that I now react when people say things like ‘God said… ‘ or ‘God’s spoken very clearly and therefore we should ….’, the closedness that communicates to me then becomes a hurdle to me stopping and hearing what God might in fact be saying in what they bring.

As a movement we have chosen the hard rout in this area and one that not all Christian organisations would choose they choose the harder routs in other areas. It’s not a superiority thing, it’s simply about staying true to your organisation’s mandate and mode of operation. As we do the work to go for option three even when its really tough and time is short, we experience his favour and blessing because I believe that when all the things that make that option possible are in place, we are much more in line with God’s nature which means that his kingdom is able to emerge a little more in us and through us.

‘The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure (uncontaminated). It is also peace loving (shalom) and gentle at all times and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favouritism and is always sincere.’ (James 3v17) I think that’s what we’re talking about!

Chocolate and Carbonara

This weekend I had the chance to cook a meal with my goddaughter.  Earlier this year I gave her a copy of Jamie’s 15minute meals and since then we have two family dinner dates. She choses the recipe then we set about shopping and cooking together then the whole family gather round the table in the kitchen to enjoy the results. Don’t be fooled by the 15 minutes (or the 30 minutes for that matter!) but I don’t think that’s Jamie’s point. I really appreciate his emphasis on enjoying the cooking and eating experience and of that being in the context of family and community…. and it’s precisely that which means that they take longer than 15 minutes! In fact I would suggest that if it takes the prescribed length of time it means that you haven’t spent by far the required time in laughter or talking that’s needed to make the meal a truly fabulous experience!

It’s the end of the roller hockey season (for a few weeks at least) which meant that we had more time to kill and spent a happy 40 minutes or so sipping hot chocolate (unthinkable to have one without cream on top!) at Costa. Our supermarket bags beside us, we whiled away the time chatting about school and GCSEs and pranks to play on teachers – nothing much changes from generation to generation I feel! Then back home and still a bit of time to kill we giggled through the first half hour of Jonny English (I have to say that I did most of the laughing!) before heading off to the kitchen. On the menu was Chorizo Carbonara and salad followed by Jamie’s cinnamon peaches with custard and crushed shortbread crumble. Half the fun is improvising and making stuff up as you go along – like how much squeezy lemon constitutes the juice of half a lemon, guessing together and hoping for the best.

Last time we made hamburgers with a snazzy coleslaw salad followed by Jamie’s Eton Mess, also a heap of fun. But I hope you get it, what makes the food so good and enjoyable is the fun and chatter and spending time with friends in the whole process. I have been out of the country for most of my goddaughter’s life and so I am really enjoying being around a bit more and creating the space to get to know her. I love that God made food, and he made making it and eating it so enjoyable, he made it about celebration in its simplest and purest sense – a celebration of life, of friends, of tastes and colour, of God’s creativity, and the creativity of men and women made in his image; a celebration of time spent with each other. Thanks for your help Jamie!

three things l love to do

 

During my recent trip abroad we covered three different countries and I got to connect significantly with four different teams. It was great! That time was almost a cameo of the things I love the most in life.

In South Africa we were a team of five with an impossible task to accomplish – the number of things to achieve and journeys to facilitate was almost ridiculous – but it was all for a huge, godly, kingdom dream… So we went for it and together we saw it all come together; we had mountains of fun, worked our butts off and in the process got to know and love God, the community and each other more.

In Greece, although sick and exhausted from the South African job, it was exhilarating and fascinating to help facilitate a process that helped us move forward as individuals, teams and as an international group. I really enjoy being part of that tie up between the big picture and the individual, the task and the life between us.

And from there I headed to Albania with Erion, Lysiena and Besi. It was a four hour road trip north-west from Thessaloniki through the hill country of northern Greece. Then across the boarder into Albania where the countryside feels like you have entered some bygone era when we got around on horses and donkeys, using carts to carry our loads to market. When we farmed small holdings of land in our families, together ploughing, planting and then harvesting in the heat of the day. It’s a different life and a different pace.

Besi, Lorena, Erion, Lino and Lysiena at another cafe!

Besi, Lorena, Erion, Lino and Lysiena at another cafe!

That evening I was dropped off at Lorena’s home where I was to stay for the weekend, and I slept! The next 48 hours were so different to the previous 3 weeks. This part of the trip was centred around cafes and shared meals! It was about doing life together, hanging out, spending time sharing together. It is something I love but I don’t get to do that often, there was no great task to achieve, no burning agenda items to cover, it was just about being present. Not just physically present but fully present. I learnt so much about what life was like for these guys individually and as a team and I was nourished and energised in the process. Sometimes it was just me and one other person, other times it was a whole group of us, or just three.

Lysi, Lorena, Mattia and Myself

Lysi, Lorena, Mattia and Myself

The café stops weren’t in my honour, its just how the team function, they simply enjoy each other’s company and ministry takes place as they do life together. In fact in between the café stops was a youth meeting, a Sunday service and a festival – there were other things that they did, those were just the three things I took part in.

Besi and Lino - beards thanks to Fiddler on the Roof!

Besi and Lino – beards thanks to Fiddler on the Roof!

I remember many years ago when I first started traveling, reflecting on how God shows up in the person of a stranger, but we often miss out because we are so preoccupied with something busy. My time in Albania reminded me how I really love just being present with no particular agenda but to care and not be indifferent.

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I have a dream

Who am I? My name is Claire and I am part of an organisation called Fusion. Ah yes, you work with university students!! No, not that Fusion, we are Fusion Youth and Community, we’ve been going for about 50 years…..

We are a registered charity working with disadvantaged children and young people to see them increasingly realise their potential for a positive, hope filled life. We are holistic in our approach and to this end we intentionally work with their networks – families, schools, the whole neighbourhood and society at large – facilitating a commitment to and expressions of healthy community based on the values of justice, mercy and compassion. We network with local councils, churches, the police, businesses and other stakeholders who share our goals.  Our Christian faith is our motivation and we believe that the core values of our faith (many of which are shared by a number of other faiths) hold the key to a healthy, purposeful life as individuals, communities and a whole society.

Through our nations chequered history there has often risen a voice for justice for the oppressed, care and provision for the poor and a challenge to ‘do the right thing’. Each time the nation has responded and society has changed, some of those changes have been written deep into our psyche. (consider for a moment that there was a time in our history when a small group of people had to engage in a long and dirty political battle to increase the minimum age at which a child was permitted to work in the coal mines from 4 to 10; today the care and protection of our children is one of our highest values as a nation.) Though at times it sleeps, deep within us is a formidable giant that lives for justice with mercy and is motivated by compassion. When this part awakens, we realise that we were born to change the world and not just to take up space; hope comes to life and the reason for our existence is renewed.

Our dream, my dream, is that the giant will re-awaken and every child, young person and adult we work with, indeed every community, and even our nation discovers their place in changing the world.